At last count on http://www.linux.org, there were over 350 different Linux distributions. In an annoyance-free world, everyone could download her favorite distribution and get courteous and free support from the wide variety of Linux geeks dedicated to support online. So much for the perfect world!
Many people think of Linux as a free operating system. Linux geeks know that isn't quite true. Support takes time, which is valuable. Many Linux distributions, including Red Hat and SUSE, provide fee-based support for licensed installations of their distributions. If you're willing to get your support directly from the community, there are alternatives to the well-known licensed Linux systems.
Red Hat network entitlements are expensive. They start at $179 for Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS (workstation) and can reach above $2,500 per system for Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS (advanced server). While Red Hat is the "name brand" Linux distribution, there are ways to get the same software for the cost of support. Novell's support fees for SUSE are similar: they start at $60 for SUSE 10.0 and can reach $14,000 for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 for IBM Z Series servers.
Red Hat's move away from standard supported distributions has dismayed a significant part of the Linux community. However, Red Hat continues to release the source code for all but the proprietary packages of their Enterprise distribution. This means the Linux community has access to the same software ...